Surviving the Hospitality Industry: A Guide for the Shy and Introverts

Surviving the Hospitality Industry: A Guide for the Shy and Introverts

So you’re studying hospitality. Or you just started working in a restaurant or hotel. Or you are stuck between you wanting to stay in your job and wanting to quit because your introverted self cannot handle the pressure or too scared to start a conversation.

Sometimes we land in a position in our lives where it feels like it just happened (although your choice led you there), and you start questioning yourself why you are there. And the point is you only have two choices, to quit or move forward. And when you know that the first is not an option, you better work hard to stay afloat.

While hoteliers are always associated with big, flashy personalities, with great socialization and people skills, that does not apply to everyone. However, some timid people somehow get in for inexplicable reasons. And once they are in, they get stuck.

So if you are one of those introverts who accidentally snuck into the big, big world of extroverts, how will you stay alive?

Watch and Learn

While it is true that some people are talented when it comes to socialization, it is also true that socialization skills can be learned. How? By learning from the talented. Observe your seniors, listen to how they speak, what they say in certain situations, and open up conversations, how they answer specific questions. Watch how they act, sit and stand and how their hands move while they talk. Mimic them. Practice. By knowing what you have to say in certain situations, you gain a bit more confidence. Start small. Somehow, when thrown into an event or a big space full of people, you will find similar people who don’t want to be in the spotlight. Start a conversation. See how far it will go.

Work Hard

When you work, do your best. Whatever task you have at hand, be it wiping plates, polishing glasses, ironing linen, concocting a cocktail, taking orders, or talking to a guest, always do your best. And work hard not only on your tasks at hand. Work hard on your personality too. Knowing that you are far behind others when it comes to sociability, you have to work hard on improving this skill.

Know Your Strengths and Leverage from It

While people skills are fundamental in the hospitality industry, know that it is not everything. There are a lot of skills and talents needed to run the show. First, understand your strengths, hone them and make sure that you excel. Then, show them what you got. Believe me; this can cover up other things that you lack. You may not be a good conversation starter, but your skill or talent can be.

Keep Practicing

While working hard is important, consistency is the key. You need to keep doing it; you need to keep practicing. A skill is not learned overnight, and I am a living testament to this. While I am still automatically shutting down when placed amidst a huge crowd, I can converse well when needed. I can keep a conversation going; I can entertain people. But this did not happen overnight. It took years of practice. I once cannot pass an interview (actually two interviews with the same person in different times) because I was too shy and the interviewer could not even hear my voice and I could not look her in the eye. When I started with my first job,  I could not even inform a guest in the restaurant that it was time for the last order. But now that I can confidently host media people. 

But then, although it is good to keep pushing yourself, you can stop once you know you have reached your limit. Take a break. Breathe. Then start again. You don’t have to talk and socialize every time. Just be prepared in case you need to. While mimicking people could help, note that you can take them as your examples but you don’t have to be as loud or as big as they are.

If After Trying and You Really Can’t Find Your Place, Then Start Re-evaluating Yourself

So, what if you watched, learned, and mimicked your superiors, you did your best, honed your strengths, and kept practicing, but you don’t feel you can continue? Then probably it’s time for you to re-evaluate yourself and your career path. Maybe it’s time to move on. But when I say move on, it does not necessarily mean moving on to another industry and leaving hospitality behind. There are different departments in each organization, and there are certain positions in which one would have very minimal or even zero interaction with guests. For example, suppose you feel shy to face people, but you can communicate well via phone. In that case, there is a place for you as a telephone operator, reservations agent, room service order taker, or housekeeping administrator. There are other vital back-of-house areas where you can still hone your skills, like in the kitchen, where there are many opportunities for you to explore with really zero contact with the outside world. You can also try getting into administrative roles.

But then again, if you still don’t feel comfortable in the industry after trying and doing your best, the ocean is vast. Test the waters.

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